Color Their Worlds

Local artists and photographers reveal their favorite locations to enjoy the fall foliage

Few aspects of a Syracuse autumn are so appealing as the fall foliage. While the changing leaves could be interpreted as the first step toward a long winter, it’s hard not to get caught up in the captivating colors all around the city.

This beauty is especially evident through an artist’s eye. Here are some favorite spots of local artists and photographers:

Stasya Erickson

Artist and photographer

Favorite spots: Westminster Hill and Oakwood Cemetery, both near Syracuse University Erickson says the top of Westminster Hill, a 55-foot drumlin by Westminster Park, might not be the best-known spot for taking in the fall foliage, but it offers one of her favorite perspectives on the city.

“I love to go up there and take photographs and take in the view,” she says.

“It’s just gorgeous.”

She says she walks her dogs to the top of the hill every day, so she gets to witness the trees’ gradual transformation. As the branches lose their leaves, the view of the city opens and becomes more and more impressive.

Another spot she enjoys, which she says might be a more common answer among artists, is Oakwood Cemetery. “I think this cemetery is extraordinary any time of year, but I find it particularly captivating during the fall.”

One of her favorite parts of photographing and drawing the cemetery is the contrast in color between the changing leaves, the bright blue Syracuse sky and the black crows that inhabit the cemetery.

Light, not necessarily nature itself, is her greatest inspiration when capturing these spots. She also likes to capture the interactions between the natural environment and the built environment, including architecture like the crumbling staircase leading from Euclid Avenue to Westminster Park.

Erickson attended Syracuse University for biology and painting. She is the program coordinator of communications and organizational development at Northside UP, for which she runs a photo blog featuring images of the city. She has been drawing since childhood and has been involved with the Public Arts Task Force in Syracuse.

Maria Rizzo

Painter Favorite spot: Green Lakes State Park, Route 290, Fayetteville Rizzo recommends Green Lakes State Park for breathtaking nature scenes in the fall.

“I love the reflection of the fall trees, the colorful trees, the glacial lakes,” she says. “The reflection on the lake is something you won’t see anywhere else.”

Rizzo has a traveling exhibit of paintings called Trees: Totems of Life. Some of her paintings are showcased in a group show at the Redhouse Arts Center through Oct. 4.

Rizzo says painting and, specifically, painting nature scenes offers her an escape. “With everyday life, we get so stressed and caught up in our problems, and taking a hike outside is a kind of self-therapy,” she says.

Rizzo has been in the Syracuse area for six years, and she started her own business as an artist in 2010. She knew when she was very young that she wanted to be a professional artist, because she always had some trouble expressing herself verbally. Her goal is to make a living with her art.

Bob Gates

Photographer and treasurer of the Syracuse Camera Club Favorite spots: Green Lakes State Park and Chittenango Falls State Park Gates, like Rizzo, says the best scenes for fall require a short drive and a bit of a hike.

“Green Lakes is a wonderful place to go just to walk around,” he says, adding that when the water is calm, the reflections on the lake make for gorgeous photographs.

For photographs with more motion, Gates goes to Chittenango Falls State Park.

“There’s a road that goes over Chittenango Creek above the falls, and standing near that bridge, if you look upstream, there are a few small rapids, only about 2 feet tall,” he says. The contrast between the piercing blue sky and warm tones in the changing leaves makes for an appealing color combination in a photograph.

Gates says there is something almost universally appealing about nature shots, but that’s what makes nature photography so challenging.

“I like beautiful photographs,” he says. “The real trick with nature shots is finding something you haven’t seen a hundred times.”

Gates has been in Syracuse for 46 years. He started photography during graduate school at the University of Iowa. Although he was studying English, he took a photography course and fell in love with the craft.

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